Category Archives: DIY

Instructions, tips, ideas for doing things yourself

This awesome hack will save your pant cuffs!

OK, I know the title of this post sounds like click bait, but it’s really true. Today I did one of those simple little things that had me saying, “No way! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

You see, all this winter as I’ve been bundled up working outside, I have been frustrated with the cuffs on my insulated pants. The legs are too long and the edges would get nasty in the mud and dirt.

Too long pants

In fact, the cuffs are even starting to fray. And that’s just really annoying.
Often I would just roll then up, which looks silly, but whatever. 

This works if  there’s not a ton of mud or it’s not actively raining, both of which I was dealing with today. The mud gets on the inside of the pants if they are rolled up like that while working in mud, and the water gets trapped in the cuffs if it’s raining.

What’s a girl to do?

Then I had an epiphany!

Elastic cuffs! It’s kinda hard to see in the pic since my elastic is the same color as my pants, but I found some wide elastic and wrapped it around the outside of my pant cuffs.

I didn’t even sew them. Just used a big safety pin on each one.

External elastic pant cuff

So simple. Just a couple items and my pant legs didn’t bother me all day!

I’m thinking this same idea would work with Velcro, or string, or even a thick rubber band. 

I’m just wondering why it took me all winter to think of it! 🤣

Granola Recipe

Back this summer I learned to make my own granola and we are loving it! I made up another big batch today, so figured it was a good time to give you my recipe.

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Making Granola in the early autumn sunshine with a borrowed solar oven.

I have spent countless minutes in the grocery store reading ingredient labels on granola packages and still ended up having to accept some ingredients I did not like in order to have the convenience of a cold cereal that is at least somewhat healthier for you.

So I decided to make my own. From be able to use whatever flavors you want to being able to control the quantity and quality of the ingredients, it just makes sense to make your own. Below is the recipe that I make every couple of months. Every time we run out, the Hubs gets a sad face and continually asks for me to make up another batch.

Oh, and speaking of the Hubby, did you see the post he did the other day about flashlights? I was so proud of him for taking the initiative to write up a post for this here blog. Ain’t my man great? 😉

I digress…

The recipe:

Homemade Granola

  • 6-ish cups Old Fashioned oats
  • 4-ish cups nuts or seeds of choice, chopped small
  • 1-ish cup chia seeds
  • 4-ish tsp Cinnamon
  • 2-ish tsp salt
  • 1-ish cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4-ish cup coconut oil
  • 2-ish tsp real vanilla
  • 1-2 cups raisins
  • 1-2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions: Place all ingredients except for the coconut flakes and raisins in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, spread a 1 inch portion of the uncooked granola onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes. Stir the granola and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the granola is just barely lightly browned. Empty that panfull into a large bowl and repeat with more granola until the entire batch has been cooked (it takes me four 9×13 pans to cook this amount. You could do it one at a time or if your oven is big enough, all at once – lucky you!) Add the coconut flakes and raisins and mix completely. Let cool and store in an airtight gallon sized container (I use 2 half-gallon jars). Enjoy by the handful or with milk. And feel free to experiment next time.

Notes:

-As you can tell by all “ish” statements, I tend not to measure my ingredients very precisely. I just scoop or pour till it looks about right. 🙂 This recipe is very forgiving that way.

-Nuts: I usually use sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. Lately I’ve been putting in raw pumpkin seeds as well. This time I even added a bit of flax seeds. Whatever seems good at the time and to ramp up the nutritional value. If you really want to be uber healthy, you should soak the nuts ahead of time. I have never done this, mainly because I never think about it ahead of time. It sounds really easy to do, just takes some planning.

-Other recipes will tell you to add the coconut flakes in at the beginning or midway through for a “toasted coconut” flavor. I found that by doing that, I lost the coconutty flavor. So I just add it at the end with the raisins (which don’t taste good baked in my opinion – they get too dried out).

-Feel free to make substitutions as needed/wanted. Your results may vary from mine, but that’s what making your own food from scratch is all about, making it the way YOU want it. Want to use regular oats, not old fashioned? Go for it! Want to play with the ratio of oats to nuts? Awesome! Can’t stand coconut? Leave it out. Make it yours!

-A note about price. Obviously the price of your ingredients is going to affect the price of this granola. I have found that it is not really any cheaper to make my own than a good quality store bought, mainly because I use so many nuts, which are expensive. But, and that’s the most important “but”, I can make it exactly how I want it with the exact ingredients I want. I get to control everything that goes into it. And that is worth more than the price tag.

Well, there you go. I finally got my granola recipe up here for y’all, as I said I was going to in a facebook post way back in August!

I hope you enjoy.

Light on the Homestead

This is my Hubby’s first post on the website! Thanks, Babe!
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Being off grid and out in the country means having to provide for many needs that would traditionally be met by urbanized infrastructure. One of the things that all of the adults keep in pocket every day and night, is a good flashlight. The lights we carry are not super bright, but they balance intensity and portability well. Turn to Amazon, eBay, or any one of the many outdoor gear websites and you’ll run across the crop of lights that are not your dad’s 1990’s maglite.
LED technology and lithium (sometimes rechargeable) batteries have made today’s flashlights light, compact, bright, and long lasting. The lights that I bought for the Mrs, and Princess Girl is the Olight i3. It is a AAA powered flashlight blasting out 120 lumens and barely larger than the battery itself, making it easy to have on you at all times either on a keychain, a necklace, or in a jean 5th pocket.

The Wife was initially skeptical of carrying a flashlight around the homestead, but

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Late night egg check. You can barely make out the super small Olight i3 in her right hand.

she has grown to find it an indispensable tool for everyday use. From finding her way to the trailer from the car at night, to peering into the cabinets to find a pan for lunchtime. The small size makes it easy to grip in her lips for both hands free, and the pocket clip allows for it to be clipped to the brim of a cap to act as a headlamp. I made sure to power it off of an Energizer Lithium AAA battery. This gives it better temperature resistance, longer runtime and slightly lighter weight.

There are certainly many types of lights to choose from, my recommendation for a basic light would be a single AAA or AA type, with a light output around the 100 lumen mark. Olight, 4Sevens, Thrunight, Nitecore, Surefire, Fenix, Streamlight are all companies putting out great lights.

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Maglite 2AA LED, HarborFreight cheapie 3AAA LED, Olight S20R, Energizer headlamp

Maglite has stepped up their game as well with a line of LED bulb lights. Even the “giveaway” type LED flashlights (like from HarborFreight) that run off of a trio of AAA batteries have their place: small, light, bright, and so cheap to the point of  being nearly disposable.

My rechargeable light (Olight S20R) is larger and more expensive than the i3, but it has features that make the greater size and weight worth it. Its rechargeable 18650 battery can be juiced up at my desk while I’m at work, on a snazzy magnetic charging base no less. It can put out enough light to illuminate the hillside, or little enough to peer under the theater seat without disturbing other patrons. It can get a bit tiring in a mouth grip or heavy attached to a hat brim, but its versatility makes up for these factors.
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Olight i3 in red makes finding in the dark a little easier, small size pairs easily with a Victorinox Cadet to round out a front pocket light/blade EDC combo. The blue Maglite Solitaire LED also runs on a single AAA, and is easily found at just about any kind of store.

For working tasks I highly recommend having a headlamp in addition to a pocket flashlight. A light specifically made to wear on the head is much more comfortable, and one designed to provide a flood of light rather than a spot beam makes working with your hands easier.
While we have many flashlights hanging out around the homestead, nothing beats having one in your pockets, right at your fingertips ready at a moment’s notice.

Eggs!!!

Soooo, we recently inherited a flock of chickens. And even though at least 5 or 6 of the hens are of laying age, with the stress of the move, the short daylight hours, the fact that they free-range right now, and the fact that we didn’t really have any nest boxes built for them meant that we had yet to see an egg.

Until today!

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Two eggs!

We recently built the nest boxes and stuffed them with straw.

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The nest box is a triple-decker that hangs on the outside of the coop. Pajii was the one to suggest the high rise to save some space and still be able to access the eggs without having to enter the eventual run or the main coop. That man sure has his genius moments. 🙂

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Each box has an opening accessed from inside the coop for the chickens, and a door for the humans to look for eggs.

So I think just adding the boxes and the straw helped the mature hens to get the right idea, but I also think our other idea helped.

We put a couple of golf balls in each nest!

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Golf balls to encourage laying.

I learned in Justin Rhodes’ Permaculture Chickens e-course that to encourage a hen to go broody, you can leave a couple ceramic or wooden eggs, or better yet, golf balls, in the nest. Golf balls are cheap and easily obtained compared to ceramic or wooden eggs. Especially since we already had some! I figure if it helps them go broody, then it should encourage them to start laying in the nests.

We finished the nest boxes and put the golf balls in two days ago. Yesterday I saw one of the mature hens checking out the new accommodations. And today, there were two eggs!

I’ll take them!

How about you? Do you have chickens? How many eggs are you getting right now?

 

A time for everything

A friend of ours was looking to re-home his chickens and rabbits.

So, who did he call to see if we wanted to take them? Why, us, of course! And it just so happened that THIS week is the week we needed to take them.

Despite the fact that we did not have a chicken coop. At. All.

And our rabbit hutch is in disrepair.

But did we let that deter us? Not a chance!

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the progress we made on a chicken coop.

First we gathered materials.

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We’re pretty excited that so far, we have not had to buy a single thing to put together our chicken coop. Most of the wood is reclaimed wood from a friend’s old play house and some shelves we demolished which we found on freecycle. A few 2×4’s are “new”, as in, never been used, but we’ve had them hanging around for a while. We’ll eventually need to put a bit of money into it for roofing and paint, but it won’t cost us very much. We feel so blessed.

Over the course of a few days, I worked to get a coop up enough that the chickens would at least have a place to sleep.

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My “office” for a few days. How blessed am I?!

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Making sure things are level and plumb.

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Putting on the floor.

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My co-workers for the day. Lot of help they are!

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Getting closer. This is what the coop looked like when we brought the chickens home on Tuesday at 2pm.

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Nailing on the roof.

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It took everyone to work to finish the coop before sundown.

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It’s not finished, but it will work for a few days to get us through till we have time to work some more on it.

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Time to bring in the chickens.

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Flower girl wanted to help, of course.

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Happy in their new home.

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Happy in their new home.

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They’ll free-range till we can get a run built for them.

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And the rabbits are living in a little box trailer we have till we can get their hutch repaired.

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This is April. She actually belonged to us several years ago till we gave her to our friend, who gave her back to us. She is the most docile of the group. The other 4 are her offspring, several generations removed. She is no longer a breeder since she’s so old, but she’s so sweet we’re not sure if we want to cull her or not.

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Sharing their meal.

And that’s our new adventure. I’ve had fun over the last couple of days trying to figure out what breeds of chickens we have. Eventually we want to get into breeding them, and doing so selectively. But for now, it’s enough that we have chickens again.

And the rabbits. Yes. That is three females and two males all running around in a box trailer together. Yes, that means babies in about a month. But the deed was done before we got home. They had all gotten out of their cages and were running around in the trailer with the chickens. Figured that since the deed was already done, it wouldn’t hurt for them to live in colony until we can get their hutch repaired. That’s our project for this weekend. And in just a month, we’re gonna have babies. Lots of cute, cuddly, fluffy baby bunnies. Just in time for Christmas.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

How do we…take showers

We are a family of 5 (while our godson is living with us) living in an off-grid camping trailer while we build our house. 

And we ripped the shower and toilet out of the trailer long before we ever started living in it.

So, how do we de-stinkify ourselves when the need arises? (And believe me, living all together in 280 square feet, the need arises quite frequently!)

However, in reality, we all take fewer full showers than most people do. Being that we have to haul in our own water, we try to conserve as much as possible. The girls and I only wash our hair once a week, and the water always gets turned off while soaping up. And in between those several full showers a week are the “rinse offs”. This is where we basically only wash off the truly stinky parts. You know, those areas you’d hit with a quick sponge bath.

When we lived here two years ago for those few idyllic months, we mainly took sponge baths and went to my mom’s house when a full shower was needed.

But we knew that couldn’t last for too long, so when we moved back to the homestead this summer, we knew we needed something more permanent. And yes, there’s always Pajii’s trailer, but we don’t want to constantly be using his water and power or crowding his space every time we need to clean up. Not to mention how tiny those trailer showers are!

So Hubby built us a shower room constructed from 2×4’s and plywood.

This 4×4 mini-shed makes a very spacious and wonderful shower. We use a 20 amp hour, 12 volt battery connected to an RV water pump which sits on top of one of our 50 gallon barrels of water. 


A 100 watt solar panel is hooked to the battery to keep it topped up. The pump brings water through a propane powered instant hot water heater.


Right now, we only have the ability to turn the water on and off while inside the shower, not adjust the temperature. So showering can be quite the adventure depending on how warm the ambient air is as well as how warm the water inside the barrel has gotten. If you’re taking a shower mid-afternoon on a warm day, you’d better turn that puppy waaaay down before you get in there. 😀 We have plans to rig it up so we can adjust the temperature from inside. But we’ve had a few, more pressing projects.

And speaking of the inside…


The reason we have a shower curtain in there is so we can hang our clothes and towel on the hooks and close the curtain around them so they don’t get wet. 

There is no floor built into the shower. Rather, we placed pavers on the ground inside so the water can drain easily. 


So far, the whole system has worked almost seamlessly. Once the temps drop, we will need to do something to keep things from freezing, but for now, and probably at least another month or so, we’ll be fine.

And hopefully we’ll have the well in by then and can move our whole base of operations down to the house pad (we’re still camped out on the upper pad about a quarter mile away from where the house is going to go.)

Oh, and the latest news on the well is that the drilling company has a broken rig, putting them further behind schedule and they’ll contact is when they can get us back on the schedule. *Sigh*

But it will happen when it happens. There’s nothing we can do about it, so why stress over it? God has his reasons. In the mean time, we’re keeping busy.

So anyway, now you know how we get clean here on the homestead.

How do we…wash clothes

After a busy day of taking the portable septic tank to be dumped, filling up 4 barrels of water, and doing 4 loads of laundry, I got to thinking that you all might be interested in how we do some basic things here on the homestead. Such as wash laundry. And take showers. And use the toilet.

We live in a camping trailer, yes, but that trailer doesn’t have running water and is not hooked up to septic. In fact, it no longer even has a bathroom. 

The former bathroom

And even when it did, we never used it. Would you if you had to move the entire outdoor living area just to take your trailer out to dump the septic tank and take on fresh water every week or so?

Yeah, us neither. 

So, we have an outhouse of sorts, an enclosed outdoor shower, and we even have laundry capabilities, right here on the homestead. 

Over the next several days, I’m going to be doing some posts on how we do these mundane, yet necessary tasks.

And since today has mostly been about doing laundry, we’ll start with that.

So, how do we wash laundry? Well, I suppose we could take our laundry to the laundromat. Probably most people would do that and most people probably think that’s what we do. But we’re not most people. I don’t want to spend several hours each week sitting in a laundromat (the nearest of which is all the way in town). 

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Disclaimer: Pagee takes his laundry to said laundromat. So obviosly he has time for that. 😉

Not too long ago, we acquired a washing machine for free. It now sits beside our shed, with two 55 gallon barrels of water next to it. 

The first time I used it, I had to manually fill it with 5 gallon totes. That thing uses upwards of 15 gallons of water for the wash and rinse cycles – each! That’s 25-30 gallons of water per load! And it’s not that old of a washer. No wonder everyone is going to HE washers!

Anyway, we have to run the generator to run the washer, so it’s a noisy process. But I don’t have to leave the homestead to do laundry. Which means other stuff gets done while the laundry is washing. And that’s a big deal, folks!

So here’s what our set up looks like. 

(The tent in the background belongs to some friends who are visiting. 🙂 )

We use the generator (sitting behind the water barrels) to run the washer. The water pump we took out of our trailer is hooked up to a battery. 

This type of pump is nice because when there is full pressure in the line, it stops pumping. When the pressure drops (ie when you open a faucet, or the washing machine opens it’s valve) the pump automatically kicks on. Pretty sweet.

Anyway, when we get ready to wash, we make sure the barrel has enough water, hook up the pump to the battery, turn on the genny, plug in the washer, and then use as normal. 

As shown above, the wash water is diverted by a hose and goes to a couple trees. It looks redneck, but it works. 

Note: if your drain pipe is lower than the water outlet on the machine, like if the hose is just laying on the ground, all that water you’re pumping into the washer will just drain right out of the hose. Don’t ask me how I know this. :-\ 

When we’re not washing, we put the hose and table away. So far, we haven’t had any real rain this summer, so we haven’t had to worry about the washer being out in the wet. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess.

And, of course, our dryer is completely solar powered. 😀

And that’s how we do laundry here on the homestead.

Re-purposed garden boots/clogs

So, when we were in Nevada a couple weeks ago, we spent some nights in the trailer, and it became very evident that I needed to find myself some slip-on shoes of some sort. Putting on real shoes in the middle of the night to visit the outhouse is not fun.

They needed to be waterproof for the rain and mud we occasionally get there. But also because waterproof also means dirt proof, which is more my concern seeing as how our homestead is in Nevada, afterall. I hate tromping out to the outhouse and having to empty the sand and pebbles out of my shoes before coming back in the trailer.

So I started searching in various stores as I was in them. Not a concerted effort, mind you, just seeing what they had since I was there.

And then my wonderful hubby reminded me I had some old rain boots which could work. You see, the rain boots had developed a hole in the sole of one which, when worn in heavy water, leaked. General mud and dirt and dampness, however, stayed out. So they still worked just fine as muck boots, so long as I wasn’t standing in actual water.

But seeing as how I won’t be needing muck boots in the near future, and I DO need some slip on shoes, I made the change.

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It was very simple. I just took a sturdy pair of kitchen sheers and cut the tops off.

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Now I have a pair of clogs that I can slip on and off easily for use while living in our trailer. I didn’t have to spend any money, and I am re-purposing something which was “broken”.

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Recycling/re-purposing/re-using for the win!

Blackberry Syrup with Honey

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So…we’re moving in just a couple of weeks. And we had a freezer full of food to eat up since we will be living in camping trailers and won’t have freezer space available to us (have you seen how small those freezers are?).

We had several bags of wild blackberries in the freezer from two summers ago. First of all, they just needed to be used. Because, you know, two summers ago!

Second of all, as I said, we don’t want to transport frozen food to Nevada. So we either needed to eat them or transform them into something that is doesn’t need to be refrigerated/frozen.

We had so many that we could eat cobbler several times a week from now till we leave. And as much as we all love cobbler, we’re just not that into desserts around here. We see them as a treat rather than a staple.

So a canned good of some sort was the order of the day.

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I coulda made jam. But as much as we had would have probably made about 5 pints of jam. Way too much for us to go through. That would have lasted us years! We just don’t eat that much jam.

So I chose to make syrup. By straining out the pulp and seeds I knew I’d get a smaller volume of juice. Not only that, but one jar of syrup will be gone in just a couple of days. We don’t make pancakes all that often, but when we do, we open a jar of our delicious homemade fruit syurp, use it for the pancakes, and the remainder gets used in oatmeal till it’s gone a day or two later.

I started out with 10 cups of frozen blackberries. I put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water and heated them till boiling, then cooked them for about 5 minutes. I then took a potato masher and mushed them up to get out as much juice as possible.

After that, I scooped them into some jelly bags to drain. You could use a piece of muslin or linen fabric, or several layers of cheescloth if you don’t have jelly bags.

I hung the jelly bags from a cabinet doorknob and let them drip into a bowl.

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They drained like that for about an hour or so. I probably could have let them drain for several more hours and gotten more juice out of them, but I was in a hurry.

I ended up with 4 cups of juice. I added this and one 1 cup of honey to a pot on the stove and started heating it. I chose this amount of honey because that’s what tasted good to us. Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking. You can also use any other kind of sweetener you’d prefer.

Once it was boiling, I sprinkled in about two tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin. I figured this would thicken it up into more of a syrup consistency without waiting for it to boil down on the stove. If you’d prefer not to use pectin, you can just let it simmer for a while on the stove, but be prepared to lose a bunch of volume. If you do use pectin, be careful not too add to much or you’ll end up with jelly!

Once it boiled good for a minute or so, I ladled it into prepared jars and processed it for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. For detailed instructions on water bath canning, check out this site.

You can see from the following picture that the syrup is thick enough to coat the inside of the jar. Yummy!

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I ended up with 5 cups of syrup in 4 jars (two 12oz jars and two 8oz jars).

Can’t wait to have some pancakes!

And yes, we left enough blackberries out to make a couple cobblers. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

The Next Generation

What do you believe?

What do you think is best?

Chances are, if you truly believe it and think it’s best, whatever it is, you want your children to follow in your footsteps.

But what are you doing about it?

Learning kitchen skills

I was reading in the Bible this morning how in just a couple generations, the Jews had completely turned away from God.

Judges 2:10 says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD, nor what he had done for Israel.” (NIV)

Now, no matter what your religious leanings are, there’s a lesson there for us all. In just a couple generations, the nation of Israel had fallen away from their beliefs.

Helping build the chicken coop.

I got to thinking about what our own country was like just a few generations ago. When my grandparents were young. Their values and morals. And just how different things are now. A LOT can change in just a few generations.

Whether you believe it’s a good change or not, the fact is, there’s been a drastic change in the last 80 years. And there will probably be more as we go forward.

More cooking skills

So, how can we pass on our knowledge, our beliefs, our values, to the next generation? How can we ensure that our children have the best chance of believing as we do?

 

Bible study

The answer to that also can be found in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV)

Packing lunches for the homeless.

Of course, this verse is talking about God’s laws, but the principle is the same for every value we hold dear.
We have to talk to our children. We have to teach our children.

It’s not enough to just show them. Yes, our example is very important. We need to live out what we believe. But to expect our children to follow in our footsteps just by observing us is walking a dangerous road.

Helping preserve the harvest.

They’re never too young to teach the why

Why do you believe what you believe?

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you live the way you live?

Homegrown cherries and the fun and hard work of harvesting them.

Sure, when they are young, they won’t understand. They will follow you because they love you and because they know no other way.

That’s why we have to talk to them. To teach them about our way of life. About your values and beliefs.

Planting the garden

Because one day they are going to grow up. One day they are going to look around and see that the rest of the world doesn’t live like your family.  And if you haven’t prepared them for that, they will have a much harder time holding onto the values that you hold so dear.

 

Planting the garden

Now, this is a homesteading blog, so I don’t want to get too preachy, but in the long run, do I really care if my children follow in our homesteading footsteps? Well, I hope they do. I believe this type of life is a very good one. But I know that there’s something in life so much more important than organic veggies and sustainable living. I believe that following God is the most important thing.

Observing and helping (and getting to stand on the roof of the trailer 😉 )

And I want my children to believe the same thing.
I am reminded of the first episode of season 2 of the TV show Alone. It is a survival show where the contestants are up against nature and their own psyches completely alone in the wilderness. They can tap out at any time. The last man standing wins half a million dollars.

In episode 1, they showed a man who bragged about how good he was going to do. He had the skills, he said. He wasn’t afraid, he said. He bragged about how if he met a bear, someone would have to come to the bear’s rescue.

What happened when he got to the wilderness and encountered actual bears (or rather the evidence that they were close by)? You guessed it, he bailed. As much as he bragged about it, he wasn’t actually prepared for there to be bears out there.

Learning to use tools (and learning to be a teacher)

I see passing on our values much the same way. It’s easy for people to say they believe something, but as soon as they come up to a difficulty or hardship, they bail because it was harder than they really expected.

If we truly want our children (or anyone we are mentoring) to follow in our footsteps, we need to teach them not only that there are bears in the world, but how to handle them.

Talk to your children, folks. Teach them. It’s a big job, a hard job, yes.

But one with some awesome rewards!

 

Maridy